GUELPH, ON, June 21, 2013 /CNW/ - The University of Guelph announced today a $1 million commitment from the RBC Blue Water Project to support teaching and research initiatives in water and ecosystem monitoring, as well as treatment and conservation on First Nations reserves.
"Water contamination is one of the most important health-related environmental problems facing First Nations communities," said president of the University of Guelph, Alastair Summerlee. "These communities also face serious and increasingly complex threats to ecosystem biodiversity. We have the research and teaching expertise and commitment -- and now, thanks to RBC, additional resources to make a difference."
The new education and research initiative includes student field projects to help them learn more about water and biodiversity. The gift was made through the BetterPlanet Project, the University's $200-million fundraising campaign for teaching and research in food, environment, health and communities.
"We're proud to support the University of Guelph in its efforts to assist First Nations communities and help protect one of the world's most precious natural resources - fresh water," said Dave McKay, group head, personal and commercial banking, RBC. "Canada is considered a water-rich country, but many areas, including our Aboriginal communities, are under serious water stress, and shortages are becoming alarmingly common in communities across the country. Working together with the University of Guelph and other organizations, we can help ensure we have safe, clean water, now and in the future."
Currently, the University of Guelph has more than 100 faculty members and hundreds of students and researchers involved in water-related projects. The RBC Blue Water Project commitment will strengthen projects and support new initiatives, with self-sufficiency and sustainability being major program goals. Efforts will include:
- Training and helping with water and wastewater treatment and monitoring;
- Helping First Nations determine priorities and strategic solutions to protect biological and cultural diversity;
- Fostering responsibility and control of community water systems and health;
- Developing tools to improve drinking water inspection and quality;
- Removing toxins and pathogens from water;
- Sponsoring workshops, projects and communication initiatives;
- Helping develop emergency response and water protection plans;
- Determining human impacts on aquatic ecosystems; and
- Working globally with aboriginal populations to create biodiversity resources.
"First Nations communities urgently need training in water engineering and stewardship," said Kevin Hall, vice president of research, the University of Guelph. A civil engineer and water expert, he studies environmental monitoring and pathogen detection systems, as well as water and health in marginalized communities.
More than 100 First Nations communities across Canada are under "boil water" advisories -- some more than a decade old. Many First Nations communities have been deemed "high risk" due to deficiencies in drinking and/or wastewater systems.
The incidence of water-borne diseases is several times higher in First Nations communities than in the general population, partly because of inadequate or non-existent water treatment systems. Causes include water source quality, inadequate treatment and testing, poor recordkeeping, and complex governance and jurisdictional issues.
"First Nations communities face numerous obstacles to tackling these problems, including lack of resources and expertise and divergent views," said Hall. "Our programs can make a measurable difference. With faculty from across campus, we'll provide focused expertise, improvements and training for First Nations communities and for students that will help improve source water protection and species biodiversity."
About the University of Guelph
The University of Guelph is ranked as one of Canada's top comprehensive universities because of our commitment to student learning and innovative research. We are dedicated to cultivating the essentials for our quality of life - water, food, environment, animal and human health, community, commerce, culture and learning. The University community also shares a profound sense of social responsibility, an obligation to address global issues and a concern for international development.
About RBC Blue Water Project
The RBC Blue Water Project is an historic, wide-ranging, 10-year global commitment to help protect the world's most precious natural resource: fresh water. Since 2007, RBC has pledged over $38 million to more than 650 charitable organizations worldwide that protect water, with an additional $7.8 million pledged to universities for water programs. In 2013-2014, the RBC Blue Water Project will focus on supporting initiatives that help protect water in towns, cities, and urbanized areas. For further information, visit www.rbc.com/bluewater.
About RBC's Commitment to Community and Sustainability
Royal Bank of Canada (RY on TSX and NYSE) and its subsidiaries operate under the master brand name RBC. We employ approximately 80,000 full- and part-time employees who serve more than 15 million personal, business, public sector and institutional clients through offices in Canada, the U.S. and 44 other countries. RBC is recognized among the world's financial, social and environmental leaders and is listed on the 2012-2013 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, the DJSI North American Index, the Jantzi Social Index and the FTSE4Good Index. RBC is one of Canada's Greenest Employers, one of Canada's 50 Most Socially Responsible Corporations and among the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World. Learn more at www.rbc.com/community-sustainability.
RBC supports a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships and employee volunteer activities. In 2012, we contributed more than $95 million to causes worldwide, including donations and community investments of more than $64 million and $31 million in sponsorships.